8

Paddington Farm Trust

We have finished at host number two, Paddington Farm Trust, near Glastonbury, Somerset.

It’s been a really interesting week, a huge contrast to our first host and an education in all sorts of ways.

I’ve already talked a little about the work in the previous post, along with pictures so this is an overview of the week rather than more of that.

We spent our time there feeding animals and doing general animal care including trimming sheeps and goats hooves, dusting the pigs ears and the chickens bellies for mites, walking the goat twice a day back and forth from field to yard, did some brash clearing, some burning rubbish, took some fencing down, put some fencing up, cleaned the feed shed, lit a pizza oven, moved some chickens from one area to another, drove the tractor around and got a really good overview of how the farm works.

We spent loads of time talking to people; M&T the farm managers who gave us an insight into how working for a trust and managing a farmland works, some of the other long term volunteers including a couple of foreign men who had stories to tell of other farms around the world they have stayed at, an ex traveller who is a whizz at green woodworking, a retired engineer who maintains the machinery, the teachers accompanying various special needs children including teens with behavioural, attitudinal and learning difficulties, a selective mute boy, autistic children and other special needs, the people at the food co operative that M&T are also involved in running locally and the other residents of the farm who run an organic fruit and veg growing business. We spent time talking to a man pruning apple trees in the orchards and all sorts of other visitors to the farm from weekend guests, nearby neighbours and ramblers taking the footpath through the farm.

We spent a fair bit of time in Glastonbury itself, a mere 20 minute walk away which has been an interesting experience as it’s unlike any other place we’ve ever been to. There is lots to love with a laid back air, plenty of spiritual stuff, lots of people hugging and being all peaceful but also plenty to cast a cynical eye at particularly if like us you are less comfortable around casual drug use and not quite so into crystal healing and the smell of joss sticks! It’s way before my time but this is what I imagine living in the sixties would have been like…

We’ll stay in touch with our hosts, it was a great place to spend a week, a chilled out experience after the full on living of the previous two weeks. Our first impressions were not great; the kids got involved in playing with a rather wild child who turned violent with them both which is simply not something they are used to so they were shaken and disturbed by that, we lived in the van without hookup so all evenings were torchlit and although we were given free rein to help ourselves to anything in the kitchen it felt too strange to go and help ourselves so we ended up buying most of our own food for the week which put rather a strain on our budget. But on balance we gained loads of new skills, new experiences and made some contacts that will hopefully prove useful in the future.

Finishing with bad, good and learnt at Paddington Farm:
Ady    
Bad – less direction than the previous host in terms of what we were expected to do… but…
Good – the freedom of directing our own workload
Learnt – don’t panic, give things a second chance.

Dragon 

Bad – it didn’t feel like I thought WWOOFing would be because we spent so much time just the four of us rather than working alongside hosts and learning from them and eating with them at mealtimes.
Good – spending time with the animals on the farm
Learnt – that goats can’t eat rhubarb, that mutton is ‘old sheep’ meat, about fighting cockerels (the resident cockerel is that sort of breed) how fun tractor driving is

Star
Bad – being hurt on the first night by a visiting child
Good – all the animals on the farm
Learnt – various things about animals including a first sign of an unhappy sheep is droopy ears.

Nic
Bad – a more expensive week as we spent money topping up food supplies
Good – diverse environment for learning – lots of different aspects
Learnt – about animals hooves, that there are jobs managing farms, how to drive a tractor


This post was bought to you using a Mifi from three

4

6 weeks to go, could be 5, could even be 3

But we’re hurtling towards it whatever it is!

We have tenants, not 100% confirmed as there is still paperwork to go through, references to be taken etc. But they have paid a holding deposit and we should have everything signed and sealed a week from now.

We’ve set a date to hand the keys over which gives us a deadline for being out of the house. 3 weeks. 3 weeks!!!

I’ve handed my notice in and Ady has his letter drafted to print off, I’ve put a poster in the staffroom to arrange a meal out with my colleagues, I imagine Ady will have the same and we have a party planned with friends before we go. I’m expecting lots of teary goodbyes, promises to stay in touch and people torn between feeling envious of our adventure yet grateful to go home and sleep in a  real bed at night!

So 3 week countdown to house plans go like this:

3 weeks to go:

  • Friends to stay for a night who are taking 3 of our hens for rehoming. The tenants want to keep the rest of our chickens -yay!
  • Trips to the tip for anything that isn’t worth freecycling
  • Ebay listing of last few things we uncover potentially worth selling
  • Freecycling anything that could be of use to anyone – already sent off a bike and a treadmill this weekend to new homes.
  • Start arranging Zone three hosts.
  • Begin boxing up stuff we won’t need in the last couple of weeks and clearly label boxes.
  • Try and sell old washing machine for spares / repair
  • Order years supply of mail order contact lenses

2 weeks to go:

  • Get kitted out with workboots, waterproofs, thermals etc. We have a mix of these things but need to a proper inventory of clothing we have and clothing we’ll need and fill in the gaps. I have contacted some suppliers of work wear, boots and waterproofs to see if any companies wanted to sponsor us, have us give their products a really good test or let us review for them but no one has showered us with showerproof stuff!
  • Email first round of hosts to confirm dates, give mobile number for contact etc. Draw up a map of locations with contact details to leave with a couple of people who will be keeping tabs on us to ensure we’re safe.
  • Book van hire for Moving Day. 
  • Reduce contents of two freezers into one and two fridges into one, freecycle spares. If extra interest let people know a second one will be available in a weeks time
  • Go through clothing and box up, give away or get ready to pack in campervan.

1 week to go:

  • MOT van
  • Do SORN declaration and cash in road tax for Sharan
  • Cancel car insurance & breakdown cover
  • Cancel house insurance and take out landlord insurance
  • Finish boxing up house
  • Revel in last baths, last sleeps in beds, last sits on sofas, last cookings in kitchen etc.
  • Put together How To Guide to the house to leave for tenants
  • Cancel all household bills

Moving Weekend

  • Transport all stuff for keeping to my parents for storage
  • Clean house
  • Take meter readings
  • Take some photographs of empty rooms
  • Drop keys off with letting agent

We’ve had an incredibly productive weekend and totally cleared the garage and garden of everything except for a few garden tools which we have already agreed with the tenants we’ll be leaving. The chicken coop is all cleaned, raked over and we are leaving a full dustbin of bedding and another of food for them. We feel like we’ve had  taster of bloody hard work (I spent over an hour chopping up firewood and nearly as long again moving logs about and we’ve all been hulking stuff in and out of the car and around the garden) and are looking ahead now ready to get started on the adventure.

2

Watching & Listening

There is a saying I heard for the first time a while back that I really liked:

‘You have two eyes, two ears and just one mouth – use them that way’
Basically do twice as much watching and listening as you do talking.  I’m not at all sure I manage it, although I consider myself hungry for knowledge and thirsty for learning I’m sure I talk and write far too much to have the ratio right. I do a lot of reading, which is like listening with your eyes though, hopefully that counts.  
I’ve just started reading and so far it’s proving an interesting and enjoyable read. I’m not far in and will do another review when I’ve finished it but so far my overwhelming feeling from what I’ve read is that our on-grid reliance – water, electricity, gas supplies are not remotely joined up, sustainable or even make much sense. I had no real idea just  how many people are living ‘off grid’ and doing just fine. I know when camping part of the fun is rationing light, heat, power, water and planning into our days how to go about gathering resources and using them wisely. I have plenty of friends who already live without one or more of their services supplied by expensive corporate organisations and they have adapted accordingly and don’t miss them at all.
In other news this week I have been shocked and saddened by things I learnt by way of TV and computer. We are avid watchers of Countryfile each Sunday and a while ago we watched with shock when they visited one of the massive cattle holdings in the US, where thousands of cows are kept inside, never seeing sky or eating grass for the purpose of cheap, mass volumes of milk. There is an online petition and plenty of opposition to a planned version of this in the UK. I am hoping there are enough numbers of objectors to prevent this style of farming happening here although I fear there is a larger majority who want cheap produce whatever the cost to animals or the environment. Ady and I have also been very disturbed watching Hugh’s Big Fish Fight and learning of the dreadful waste of fish that goes on thanks to EU rules about quotas and discard, along with the terrible loss of marine life (dolphins, turtles, sharks) with mass fishing styles.
All of these learnings give gravity to another famous saying ‘ignorance is bliss’. I think a lot of us would really rather not be enlightened and educated. Far better to eat your cheap chicken, drink your cheap milk, wear your cheap clothes from the supermarkets and marvel at the low price you are paying without giving a thought to who is picking up the real cost, because someone or something somewhere will be. Once your conscience has been pricked you then have to decide what to do with that knowledge. Do you bury it away, choose to ignore it? Do you make a decision to change your ways and habits, knowing that even if it’s still going on at least it’s not in your name anymore or do you go the whole hog and spread the word, become an activist, try and change things?
We’re beginning with the ‘not in my name’ approach. We’re learning more, changing our ways, lightening our footprints. We’re hopefully spreading the word in a gentle way too. Maybe hearing our story will inspire others to make small (or large) changes themselves, maybe it will give them curiosity to learn a bit more themselves. I know I can get a bit preachy sometimes, passionate about stuff to the point of being boring, I guess we all can on at least one topic. I don’t have answers for lots of the questions, so until I do and maybe even after that I’ll try to remind myself  …’two eyes, two ears, one mouth’.